I’ve taken to writing poetry again. I wrote more of it when I was much younger. I don’t consider the songs I write to be poems, though I would be hard-pressed to explain the difference. Poetry got me through senior English class, back when I was in high school. I was a dreadful student, but when it came time for the poetry section I was the only kid in my class who chose to compose original works. My writing then was hormonally-driven, angst-filled, and melodramatic, but my teacher Mrs. DeLuca loved it. There is no other reason I merited a passing grade: I couldn’t be bothered to read the assigned books, and my essays were well-worded but complete malarkey. A note scrawled at the top of one such paper exemplified my work. It read: “It is obvious you read little, if any, of this book.” I earned an F on that one.

Poetry saved me, and I ended up passing with a high B, if memory serves. Mrs. Deluca told me I was one of the two best poets she’d ever taught. When I asked what the other one ended up doing with his talent she informed me he composed the phrases inside greeting cards for a living. It seems like that was about the time I stopped seriously writing poetry.

Poetry is a good discipline—every word, every syllable is considered. It is a precise form of language that can tap into ethereal realms wordier forms can’t enter. Poetry bridges the gap between music, dance, and prose. The best poems bring us to the threshold of the vibrating inner core of existence.

Adieu, French Reform

The dance floors in Chico will be vibrating a little less these days as French Reform has decided to call it quits. If all goes well, I’ll be sitting down with the band later this week to query them about the decision. Their music takes me back to my youth and the pulsating, manic-melancholic dance of the 1980s. Back then I was all metal, all the time, and would not have abided their style, but I’m happy to say that my tastes have expanded since then. French Reform captured a sound, sent pulses racing, and got crowds moving. Their absence will leave a hole in the scene, but hopefully new bands are being formed—not to take their place, but to serve as further tributaries feeding into the river of music.

Still Working through Recent Losses

We lose the ones we love, inevitably; sometimes “on schedule,” other times tragically and prematurely. The losses hurt, and they leave dark, empty spaces. Those spaces never really get filled. They shouldn’t get filled. Pain and grief aren’t emotions to be ignored or avoided. Ecstasy isn’t happiness; it is an embrace of chaos, experiencing all emotions powerfully, at once. Bliss is cellular comprehension of divine order, and an emotion I rarely experience.

Happiness will come in time, as wildflowers emerge when they are ready. The older I get the more I accept the cycles. I understand intellectually that pain will subside and joy will return, but sometimes my heart isn’t buying what my brain is putting down.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.